How to Train Your Dog to Eat by Himself

Medium
1-4 Weeks
General

Introduction

There is nothing worse than a dog who refuses to eat on his own. When you have a "fussy" pup, it can feel as though you have little to no control over when he eats, how much he eats, or for that matter when he eats. When your pup is little, hand feeding him might be okay, but you need to get past this point as quickly as possible to ensure you have more control over his eating habits as well as his potty habits.

There is a controversy over which is better: "free feeding", in which there is always food in your dog's bowl that allows him to eat whenever he feels like it or "meal feeding", where you establish specific meal times when your dog is expected to eat. There are good and bad points for both types of feeding styles. and most vets recommend you put your dog on a feeding schedule. Not only does this help to establish you in the dominant role, but it also makes it much easier for you to observe his eating habits and how much he is or isn't eating.

Defining Tasks

As a human being, you are used to eating on a relatively set schedule of three meals a day. While your dog may not need three meals a day, it is important for him to know when he is supposed to be eating and to do so at that time. Here in the U.S., we face a growing epidemic of human obesity and at the same time, there is a growing problem with canine obesity. By taking full control of when your dog eats and how much he eats, you can help prevent this from happening to your furry friend.

Another beautiful thing about teaching your dog to eat by himself at set times is that this can help to regulate his bowel movements. The big thing to remember is that you are teaching your dog to recognize when it is meal time and that he doesn’t have time to waste once you put the bowl down in front of him. Bear in mind that if you allow your dog to "free eat" or "graze" it could take several days before you realize he is not eating properly.

Getting Started

You won't need a ton of supplies to get started training your dog to eat by himself. The most important thing to remember is that it can take a little while for your pup to make the switch from being hand fed to eating out of his bowl when it is meal time. You will need:

  • A food bowl: Every dog needs his own food bowl.
  • Food: Stock up on the food you plan to feed him.
  • Treats: You will need some way to reward your dog for getting things right.
  • Patience: it takes time to train your dog to learn to eat on his own when it is dinner time.
  • The right place: To make this training more successful, you need to have a specific spot to put his food dish every time. Placing it in different places will only lead to confusion and problems with getting him to eat.
  • Praise: You can never give your pup too much praise when he gets new training right.

The Sit First Method

Most Recommended
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Step
1
Dish it up
Pour your dog's food into his bowl and raise it over his head.
Step
2
Sit
Command your dog to sit.
Step
3
Serve
Place bowl in front of him on the floor. If he begins to eat, praise him.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat this process until each time you put his food in front of him he eats.
Recommend training method?

The Count to Five Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Invitation
Start by asking your dog, "Are you hungry?"
Step
2
First course
Place half the amount of food you want your dog to eat daily in his bowl.
Step
3
Serve it up
Hold the bowl in front of his nose and then place it in the special spot reserved for his bowl.
Step
4
Countdown
Count to five, if he starts eating let him finish and give him plenty of praise.
Step
5
Wait for later
If not, pick up the bowl and wait for 12 hours before trying again.
Step
6
Try again
Repeat the process in another 12 hours until he eats on his own each time you place his bowl on the floor. Be sure to give him tons of praise each time he eats until the process becomes a routine.
Recommend training method?

The Eat on Command Method

Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Dish it up
Fill your pup's bowl with food.
Step
2
Dinner bell
Give your dog the ‘come’ command, assuming he didn't come running at the sound of food being poured into his bowl.
Step
3
Table manners
Have your dog sit and slowly lower the food dish to the ground in front of him. If he tries to get to the bowl before it hits the ground, raise it back up and make him sit again.
Step
4
Repeat
Repeat until your dog sits and waits patiently until you place the bowl on the ground. Then give him the command ‘eat’ or ‘Okay’. His reward will be his dinner along with plenty of praise.
Step
5
Be consistent
Follow this exact same process each time you feed your dog and he will soon come to understand when it is dinner time and that this is the only time he will be allowed to eat. At this point, you should be able to put the bowl down and walk away while he eats by himself.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Amy Caldwell

Published: 11/19/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Bear
Pug
4 Years
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Bear
Pug
4 Years

I have a few questions regarding training. Bear is a rescue and as such seems to have separation anxiety. He won't eat on his own. He requires you to be outside and beside the bowl. What us the best approach to letting him know if we feed him outside we will come back very shortly

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ben, If he is a recent rescue this may sort itself out with a bit of time. Right now his anxiety is high in general and dogs won't eat when highly stressed - to get a dog to eat you have to decrease the stress enough. Being out there with him is one way to do that. Bringing him inside and feeding him inside a locked crate once he is crate trained is another way to do that. overall the goal is to build his confidence and deal with the root of the anxiety. Practicing confidence building exercises with him, adding more structure and mental stimulation to his life can decrease anxiety, and desensitizing him to being outside alone is another. I would feed him in a locked crate and while outside with him for the moment. At the same time though work on getting him used to being outside alone. Leave him outside and whenever he is calm, go outside to him and pretend to get something done out there while ignoring him. If he will take treats then, sprinkle a few treats on the ground, then go back inside without making a big deal of it. Repeat this every time he gets really calm (or quiet if he tends to cry while out there). Do not reward barking and anxious behaviors though. Add more structure to his routine, work on teaching things like a structured heel, Place command, crate manners, thresholds, ect...to build confidence, establish trust and respect in your relationship, increase impulse control and calmness, give more predictability to his routine, and stimulate him mentally. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Heel Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTiKVc4ZZWo If he is generally a bit nervous, then some confidence building exercises may also help his overall attitude. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elvtxiDW6g0 Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Violet
Boston Terrier
8 Weeks
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Violet
Boston Terrier
8 Weeks

We’ve had our puppy for about a week now and she’s doing a great job potty training etc my question is when I feed her how long should I leave her bowl down before I pull it? It’s been down about 20 minutes should I pull it until the next feeding time?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jennifer, First, since she is so young and probably easily distracted, I would feed her in a quiet, confined area and be sure she knows that it's there. Such as in her crate or in a quiet bedroom if she doesn't normally start eating right away when there are distractions. When feeding her in a quiet area, if she hasn't touched the food within 30 minutes, I would remove it and try again later. Because she is so young and young puppies have more sensitive blood sugar, I would actually give her a dog food stuffed chew toy to work on between meals if she doesn't eat. This conditions her to think that her food will be removed so she had better eat when fed, but prevents a blood sugar drop. Really at this age my favorite thing to do is to feed puppies all of their breakfast via a dog food stuffed hollow chew toy, to teach chew toy training, help prevent barking habits, entertain puppies, and prevent separation anxiety. When you do feed via a bowl, I would give 30-40 minutes at this age, then remove it. When puppy is an adult I normally give 15 once they are trained, but a young puppy needs more leniency. At this age pup also probably needs to eat three times a day still too, but consult your vet on those types of matters. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Zombie
Mutt
8 Weeks
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Question
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Zombie
Mutt
8 Weeks

I rescued two pups at the age of 5 or so weeks and they have been waiting together ever scince. But now I want them to eat separately and Zombie wont even touch his food. I'm not sure what I should do, they have both been eating dry kibble for at least 2 weeks now do I know he likes the food.They are Husky boarder collie mixes

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cassidy, There are a few things you can try: 1. Try feeding them in separate locked crates so that they feel more secure about not having to watch their back or protect their food. This is more effective if they are already crate trained so will relax in the crate. Either way, feed in a calm location. 2. Try adding a topper to the kibble, such as a little goat's milk or a freeze dried meal topper. For the milk or freeze dried pieces, crush the freeze dried pieces up into powder, place pup's food into a ziplock bag with the powder and let it sit like that for at least an hour or overnight. For the goat's milk, place the food in a bag with a little milk and shake the bag until the milk lightly coats the food. When pup will eat again, you can very gradually over a month, decrease milk or powder amount until you are back to just kibble again. 3. Don't leave food sitting out all the time. Put food down several times a day for 15-30 minutes in a calm location, like a crate with pup, then remove food again if pup has not started to eat it. Most puppies will need to eat 3 times a day at this age so food needs to be placed down at least 4 times until pup learns to eat every time it's offered, then you can go back down to 3 times, and eventually 2 times when pup is a little older. Placing food down and picking back up teaches pup to eat when it's offered instead of picking at it and waiting to eat. 4. Have pup work for food instead of using a bowl. Use the kibble as treats during training and socialization, and stuff hollow chew toys like Kongs, with the food and have pup work to get food out while in a crate or during other down times. You can also place the food in a bowl, cover it with water, let it sit out until it turns to mush, mix a little peanut butter (No Xylitol - It's toxic to dogs), liver paste, or bit of cheese into the mush, very loosely stuff the hollow toy, and freeze it overnight in a ziplock bag. You can make several of these ahead of time and grab from the freezer as needed and give to pup while resting in a crate - so that he is working to get the food out and learning good chewing habits, calmness, and self-entertainment. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rocky
Golden Retriever
2 Years
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Question
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Rocky
Golden Retriever
2 Years

He is not eating by himself,
He only was pure milk,
If we put something infront of him he tries to flip the Bowl.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mayank, First, will pup eat when you hand feed or not at all unless its only milk? If pup won't eat in other ways too, like hand feeding, I highly suggest a trip to your vet to rule out a medical cause, like a dental issue, infection, virus, or allergy. I am not a vet. If pup simply doesn't want the food in a bowl, I suggest purchasing a kibble topper like Stella and Chewy freeze dried meal topper, crushing that into a powder, adding that to a baggie with pup's kibble and letting it sit overnight, then feeding meals out of that scented food in the morning. You can also try feeding pup something like Ziwi Peak - which is an already prepared freeze dried type dog food, if cost isn't prohibitive. I suggest crate training pup and feeding pup in a locked, quiet crate.Leave pup in the crate for 1 hour with the food. If pup doesn't touch it, let pup out and try again at lunchtime. Repeat this process for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed. Removing access to the food between those times. Consult your vet about how long is safe to let pup go without them eating in relation to pup's individual needs and health. Some dogs can't go longer than one skipped meals, other may be able to handle 3 days before getting hungry enough they start to eat normal meals again. Depend on your vet's insight for that area. I am not a vet. Once pup is eating well at meals, go back to just breakfast and dinner meals. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tina
Chihuahua
14 Years
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Tina
Chihuahua
14 Years

Hi, I have a fussy senior dog. She is underweight and also on a prescription canned food for her chronic kidney disease. She needs to gain weight but will only pick at her food a bite or a lick at a time. To make things more complicated, I have a cat that likes to take advantage and eat her food when she leaves it so free feeding is not an option. We started trying to feed her inside her crate so the cat can’t steal it but now Tina has made a game of wanting to go in and out of her crate constantly to pick at her food. If I leave her in she just cries and falls asleep eventually, still not eating her food. If I let her out she walks around the room and then goes back and paws at the door to be let back in with her food. I have tried adding all kinds of treats to entice her to eat faster but she gets bored of them quickly and goes back to picking at her food after a day or so. I’ve also tried giving her a high value treat when she does manage to finish a bowl but it happens so rarely that there’s not much reinforcement. Any help with training or suggestions you have would be much appreciated! Thank you!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question about Tina. You do have a dilemma with a dog who doesn't want to eat and a cat who does! Have you spoken to the vet? Perhaps there is another flavor or brand of prescription canned food that Tina can try that may be more palatable. When you talk to the vet, see if feeding Tina small servings at intervals throughout the day is suitable for a dog who has chronic kidney disease. Sometimes warming up the food will make it more aromatic and appealing (just be very careful that it's not hot). As well, a small appetite may be normal for a small senior dog with a chronic illness. I would chat with the vet, have Tina checked out, and go from there. Good luck!

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Question
Buzo
spitz
6 Years
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Question
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Buzo
spitz
6 Years

My dog dont eat by himself.He always want to me to feed him.But i want him to eat by himself.Please help me. And i want to tell you he is vegetarian

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Anubha, First, I strongly suggest speaking with your vet about pup's diet. Make sure that pup can get what they need without eating meat and isn't becoming deficient. You have to be a lot more careful to meet all pup's needs when not feeding meat. Dogs have different needs than humans and you and your vet need to determine whether his needs are being met diet-wise. If they are not, that might be part of the issue with him not eating. I am not a vet though. Taste can also be a reason pup refuses food while on a vegetarian diet. You may need to at least temporarily include meat to help pup make the transition to a bowl, then once pup is used to eating out of a bowl, you can gradually decrease the amount of meat present overtime until pup will continue eating out of the bowl with their usual food due to habit. You can also try feeding pup in multiple small portions to increase food drive. Put 1/5 of pup's food in a bowl and feed, then take the bowl and add the next 1/5, and so forth, so that pup is eating in courses and it's more fun and less overwhelming amount wise. As pup improves, slowly feed more food at each portion and less portions, until pup is just getting one serving of food at the meal, put down once. If you don't want to use meat to flavor food, a bit of goats milk can be used temporarily. Adding the goat's milk to pup's food can help flavor the food enough for some dogs to enjoy it, then slowly decrease the amount of milk added as pup gets used to eating out of the bowl. Use goat's milk, not cows milk because it is less inflammatory and easier to digest than cow, and always check with your vet about your dog's specific health situation and what changes to diet are appropriate before changing things. I am not a vet. Finally, a bit of cheese or peanut butter powder can be added to a ziplock bag with pup's food in it and let to sit together overnight to flavor the food. In the morning, feed pup their meals out of that flavored food, and gradually decrease the amount of powder used overtime as pup adjusts to meals in the bowl. Feed pup in a quiet, distraction free environment as well. Especially one that is away from other dogs, where pup may feel the need to guard the food, instead of relaxing enough to eat. A crate can even be a good place to feed if pup is crate trained. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bdudy
Labrador Retriever
5 Years
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Question
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Bdudy
Labrador Retriever
5 Years

He is 5 years old and he don't want to eat his meals himself.He always needs a person who took his bowl and ran behind him. What will I do that he start eating himself?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello and thanks for the photo. Is this a new behavior? If so, a vet visit is necessary to rule out a medical issue. Other possibilities are that the food does not agree with him or is not palatable. Check the serving size on the bag to make sure that you are feeding Buddy the right amount of food and not too much. Ask the vet if it is okay to add a little low sodium broth to the food to entice him to eat. Maybe he prefers to grace throughout the day. Feed him a good quality dry food if you are not already, but leave it down so that he can graze at will. Make sure that his eating area is not too busy - sometimes a quiet area is best. If he continues, ask the vet for advice. There could be a sensitivity to something in the food and not eating it is a way of feeling better and letting you know.Good luck!

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Question
Milo
American bully
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Milo
American bully
2 Years

Hi.
So over a year ago he got into an accident and broke his leg. During his revovery period he refused to eat anything. Since he was on antibiotics and other medications that needed to be taken after meals, i started to hand feed him. Now he isn’t able to let go of that habit and refuses to eat on his own. Prior to the accident he did eat on his own. He’s never been greedy for food since the day we got him. He’s very fussy in general but still ate on his own. I made the mistake of hand feeding and now he just wont eat no matter what i put in front of him. I always make sure he eats at the same time everyday as well. Please any insight would be great. I’ve tried just leaving the food and when he doesn’t eat, he gets acid reflux.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sujani, First, I suggest temporarily breaking his meals up into breakfast, lunch, and dinner while doing the following, if your schedule will allow. Place his breakfast in a bowl and try either mixing goats milk with it, switching to something like Ziwi peak, or mixing liver paste into it. Feed pup in a locked, quiet room, or crate if crate trained (crate is ideal if he is already used to one). You want to remove distractions. Leave the food with him for 45 minutes. If he doesn't touch it by that time, remove and wait until the next meal. Have him earn kibble as treats for doing commands and treats, or stuff a Kong with the mixture if he likes chewing on those, to get just enough in him to avoid the reflux without making a big deal of hand feeding. At lunch, repeat the same thing. At dinner, repeat the same thing. Pay attention to when he tends to touch the food. Some dogs only want to eat at certain times of the day and aren't hungry at others, so adjusting his meal schedule might help later if you notice a trend there. Once pup is eating at least 1-2 meals, adjust amounts again so that he is getting enough calories without all three meals, and gradually get rid of the extra meal. Feed pup with the extra milk/liver/ect... for at least a week. If he is doing well out of a bowl after a week, slowly cut back on the milk or liver amount by a tbs at a time. If you use something like ziwi peak, you can either slowly mix it with his normal kibble or just continue to feed that if it's in your budget, since it's meant to be a full meal formulated with the right nutrients for each day. You might also find that using a new food bowl or even plate at first, makes this transition easier since pup won't have as many associations with the new bowl as an old one - avoid reflective bowls or bowls that make noises when a tag hits it if pup dislikes those. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Jk
German Shepherd
1 Year
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Question
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Jk
German Shepherd
1 Year

My dog is 1 year old and he never he his food by him self I have to play with him and food food on my hand and feed him I don’t wanna make this go forever and my family say he have to eat by him self but he don’t eat

I can’t see him hungry face but when I food his food on bowl he don’t eat and look at me ..!!

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, what kind of bowl does Jk have? If it is metal, change to plastic (less noisy). If the bowl moves too much when he eats, get one with rubber padding on the bottom to prevent slipping. You can try putting a little treat mixed onto the food (like plain boiled chicken or rice) to entice Jk - just a bit though, and not every time as he may begin to expect it. Put his bowl down and busy yourself somewhere else nearby. Some dogs do not like to be watched when they eat. There are excellent tips here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-puppy-to-eat-dog-food. Please be sure to read the entire guide and you may find something that works! Good luck!

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Fido
Labrador Retriever
3 Years
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Question
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Fido
Labrador Retriever
3 Years

Doesn't eat his meals on his own n has to be fed by hand. However he eats all treats on his own. How do we get him to eat his meals too without fuss

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, have you had Fido long? My first thought would be to think about the food bowl. If it is metal and slips around a lot on the floor, chances are he is afraid of the metal noise and the moving bowl. Change to a plastic bowl with rubber grips that prevent the bowl from moving. Make sure you are feeding him the right amount (not too much). Try one of the methods here: https://wagwalking.com/training/eat-his-food. You can try putting a small amount of chicken broth on the food or a bit of plain boiled chicken mixed in with the food to make it more enticing. If the methods from the guide do not work, talk to your vet to rule out a dental issue or a problem with the type of food he is eating (food intolerance issue). Good luck!

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Question
Pandora
Whippet
7 Years
0 found helpful
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Pandora
Whippet
7 Years

I rescued my dog a little over a year ago, and since i have had her she has never once ate on her own. She is extremely picky about her food but we seem to have found one that she likes. I usually end up hand feeding her her food because she will go 2 days without eating if i don’t sit there and hand feed her or make it a game. I feel like i’ve tried everything, and she will literally not eat until i try and make her eat, even if it means going days.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alyssa, I suggest speaking wirh your vet about whether an allergy, gi issue, bacterial imbalance, or other digestive issue could be behind her picky eating. I am not a vet. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Zeus
Shih Tzu
2 Years
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Question
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Zeus
Shih Tzu
2 Years

My pup is very fussy when it comes to eating. If I put the food in a plate and in the same spot, he will smell the food and walk away. I pick up the plate after 30 minutes and then put it back after 3-4 hours. He goes to his mat looking for food. So I put his plate of food and he does the same thing, smell and walk away.
So I pick him up and put him on the counter and spoon the food on the counter and he eats. This tells me he is hungry but doesn’t want to eat on his own.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Shemima, First, make sure pup isn't afraid of the dish you are using. Some dog's don't like reflective dishes, or when the dishes make noise if their tag hits it. An automatically refilling food or water container can also scare dogs because it appear to move suddenly while they are eating, to release more food. With a dish you know pup is okay with, I recommend purchasing something like freeze dried meat or liver kibble toppers. Crush the topper into powder and place pup's food in a ziplock bag with about 1/4 of the bag being the kibble toper powder. Shake it together then let it sit that way for a day or night to flavor the kibble (I recommend fixing the next day's kibble the night before. First, try feeding pup that food. Feed at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. If pup isn't actively eating the food after it's been down for an hour, remove it and try again at the next meal. Repeat this at each meal until pup is hungry enough to eat - don't leave the food down untouched between meals if pup isn't actively eating it. Speak with your vet about how long you can let this go for without hand feeding. Some dogs can't miss more than one meal due to low blood sugar, others could go three days and be fine. That number will be specific to your dog and your vet's advice. Don't go past 2-3 days without pup eating though either way! And make sure they are still drinking. A second route to try if pup doesn't like the kibble topper, is adding goats milk to pup's food. Many dogs like this and it can get them drinking a bit, which can lead to eating. I wouldn't recommend doing this long term though, but at the counsel of your vet, you might try doing this for a week or two then gradually decreasing the amount of milk you use overtime - as pup gets used to eating their food from a bowl again. If the kibble topper powder works, you can either continue that long term, switch to a food that has that as part of the formula, or gradually decrease the amount of powder overtime after one month, once pup is used to eating their food well. Finally, I would speak to your vet if things don't improve. Pup could have a GI issue, infection, enzyme lack, bacterial imbalance, or allergy to something in the food. Some foods also simply don't work well for some dogs and switching food gradually could help. (I am not a vet though). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bailey
Miniature Goldendoodle
11 Months
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Bailey
Miniature Goldendoodle
11 Months

Every time we feed her she runs away from her food. We have tried changing her food and she always likes it at the beginning and then goes on hunger strikes. She is treat obsessed and we even cut her off of that. We tried training her to know that if she finishes her food she gets a treat and it worked for a while but she goes on hunger strikes again when she gets bored. It's almost as if she looks at eating her food as a punishment even though we try and praise her and make it seem rewarding. If she sees another dog eat and we put her food in the other dogs bowl she eats the entire thing. I think she's continuously waiting for something better. Every time we put her food down she hides. Today she had a few bites so we tried a new method of giving her a treat and she went back for more then came back for a treat then went back for more and so on but by the end she was fake eating to come for more treats. She loves eating any paper or garbage she can find (she doesnt find any) but won't eat her food. It doesn't make sense. Please help.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cassandra, I would keep in contact with your vet about this, to make sure their isn't a GI issue or food allergy to blame here. (I am not a vet). If this is purely behavioral, I would also change how you are feeding her. Ration out her kibble for the day into a ziploc baggie or similar. Use food out of that bag as treats and to stuff toys like Kong wobbles (an easy way to feed still, puzzle toys, and classic Kongs. If pup is getting her food as treats and through play she will likely think something great is happening even though the food itself is the same. If this works, you can either continue to feed her this way - its a great way to stimulate her mentally and don't take much extra time if you choose the right toys, or you can take something like the Kong wobble and once she associates it with eating on her own, remove the top and the bottom is essentially a bowl to eat out of. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Ziggy
Boston Terrier
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Ziggy
Boston Terrier
4 Months

Ziggy has always had inconsistency with her food. I recently switched her to a new food but she eats on and off. How do I motivate her to eat? I can tell she actually likes this food because she eats it even when she's not hungry but she won't eat from the bowl only my hand and I don't normally hand feed her, this is a new behavior.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Danielle, First, I would check with your vet. A number of things can make a dog not feel like eating - an infection, allergy to food ingredient, bacteria imbalance, ect...I would rule out a medical cause for not eating first. I am not a vet. Also, make sure pup is not being overfed. Something I would also consult your vet about. I am not a vet. Third, what type of bowl are you using? Some dogs are afraid of bowls that are reflective or make noise when their tags hit the edge of the bowl, or where the food moves because it is automatically dispensing the food. If one of those things are going on, I would switch out the type of bowl or make a change to pup's collar, like a plastic tag protector over their tags to stop the noise. If none of the above are causing the issue, I would try feeding pup three meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and feed pup somewhere without distraction like in their crate or a quiet room by themselves. If pup isn't eating the food after 45 minutes there, remove the food and try again at the next meal time, without giving people food or treats other than pup's own kibble used as treats for training as needed, until the next meal. If pup still won't eat, I recommend purchasing a freeze dried meal topper, like stella and chewy or natures's variety, crashing a bit of the topper into powder, putting pup's kibble and some powder into a plastic bag overnight, then feeding pup that food the next day - so that their kibble is flavored and smells like the kibble toppers. Use more topper at first, and gradually decrease the amount of powder overtime. You can either phase the topper out completely, or use a food that includes a bit of topper permanently, like nature's variety, ziwipeak, and similar brands do. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Cleo
Golden Retriever
4 Years
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Cleo
Golden Retriever
4 Years

I got a 6 months golden retriever for my dad as he stays alone. But due to some reason the pup didn't eat food so my dad started feeding food in his mouth. Initially he tried to just place the food in the bowl but he didnt eat. Now its 4 years and Cleo (our dog) only eats when my dad forcefully puts food in his mouth. But he does eat small snacks if we just put on the floor or give to him.
The problem is that now my dad can never leave our home for more than few days as we worry that Cleo will be hungry.
Is it too late to teach him to eat on his own? Or is there still a way ?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
104 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I think you can teach Cleo to eat on his own, especially since he will eat treats on the floor. I suggest that you buy his favorite food and put an amount in the bowl (not overwhelming). Add a little boiled chicken (no spices), plain rice, low sodium broth, or plain vegetables (with the vet's okay as I am not a vet). Mix a small amount of the choice you make in the food and leave Cleo to eat it. Give him his food after he has had a nice long walk to build up an appetite. Don't hover over him and make sure the room is calm and quiet. After 30 minutes, remove the food if he hasn't eaten. A few hours later, try again. If he does not eat within a 24 hour period, I would consult the vet again. There could be a possible problem, like a sensitivity to the food or discomfort after he eats. It is important to rule this out. Cleo could have an ongoing medical issue that is causing him not to eat. All the best to Cleo.

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BowBow
Yorkshire Terrier
9 Months
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BowBow
Yorkshire Terrier
9 Months

the first thing I want to teach my puppy is to eat by herself
I also want to teach her the basic tricks like sit, down, stay, leave it, etc...
and I would love to teach her to sleep on her own bed she has 5 beds and still sleeps on mine
also, she seems to have separation anxiety we cant leave her alone for 5 minutes

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
225 Dog owners recommended

Hi there. Because separation anxiety is complex, I have a lot of information to send you. With some time and practice, this is something that can be turned around over the next month or so. These tips will help with her not wanting to eat alone as well. As far as basic commands, you can look up "how to" steps for each command and spend about 30 minutes per day working on them with her. The first step in treating separation anxiety is to break the cycle of anxiety. Every time a dog with separation anxiety becomes anxious when their owner leaves, the distress they feel is reinforced until they become absolutely frantic any time they are left alone. Owners should give the dog an acceptable item to chew, such as a long lasting food treat when they go out. The goal is to have the dog associate this special treat with the owner’s departure. Treats might include hollow bones stuffed with peanut butter or soft cheese, drilled out nylon bones, or hollow rubber chew toys such as Kong toys with similar enhancements (place these in the freezer before giving them to your dog to make them last longer). Give the bone to your dog about 15 minutes before preparing to depart. The chew toy should be used only as a reward to offset the anxiety triggered by your departure. Hiding a variety of these delectable food treats throughout the house may occupy the dog so that the owner’s departure is less stressful. In an effort to prevent destructive behavior, many owners confine their dog in a crate or behind a gate. For dogs that display “barrier frustration,” the use of a crate in this way is counterproductive. Many dogs will physically injure themselves while attempting to escape such confinement. Careful efforts to desensitize and counter condition the dog to crate confinement before leaving them alone may be helpful in some cases. However, some dogs rebel against any form of restraint, including restricting barriers and, for them, crate training may never be a positive experience. Crate training and utilizing the crate while people are home can be a positive way to make the crate a safe place. If you utilize it when people are around, your dog won’t necessarily associate the crate with departure and being left alone. Creating nap time in the crate throughout the day can also be helpful. Building Independence Independence training can help fight separation anxiety and loneliness. Independence training can help build confidence and instill obedience. “Doggie Daycare” or hiring a pet sitter may be a better alternative for dogs that are initially resistant to treatment. It can be expensive, but prices vary. Independence training is one of the more important aspects of the program. It involves teaching your dog to “stand on their own four feet” when you are present, with the express intention that their newfound confidence will spill over into times when you are away. You need to make your dog more independent by reducing the bond between both of you to a more healthy level of involvement. Decreasing the bond is the hardest thing for owners to accept. Most people acquire dogs because they want a strong relationship with them. However, you have to accept that the anxiety your dog experiences in your absence is destructive. Essential components of the independence training program are as follows: Your dog can be with you, but the amount of interaction time should be reduced, especially where attention-seeking behaviors are concerned. You should initiate all interactions with your dog, and they shouldn’t be permitted to demand attention. If you give your dog attention every time they whine, it helps to foster the dog’s dependence on you and increases its anxiety in your absence. You should ignore your dog completely when they engage in attention-seeking behavior, and avoid catering to them when they appear to feel anxious. This means no eye contact, no pushing away, and no soothing talk or body language, all of which will reward their attention-seeking mission. Attention is encouraged only when your dog is sitting or lying calmly. The goal is not to ignore your dog, but to stop reinforcing attention-seeking behaviors so that your dog develops a sense of independence. Minimize the extent to which your dog follows you by teaching them to remain relaxed in one spot, such as their bed. To accomplish this, it is helpful if you train them to perform a sit-stay or down-stay while gradually increasing the time that they hold the command and remain at a distance from you. Providing a treat or toy and encouraging individual play time can be helpful. Once your dog has learned basic obedience commands, you can train them to hold long down-stays while you move progressively farther away. First, your dog should be trained to perform a “down-stay” on a mat or dog bed using a specific command, such as “lie down.” Your dog may have to be gently escorted to the designated spot the first few times. Initially, they should be rewarded every 10 seconds for remaining there, then every 20 seconds, 30 seconds, and so on. Once they have figured out what is wanted, you should switch to an intermittent schedule of reinforcement [reward], as this will strengthen the learned response. Each time your dog breaks their “stay,” issue a verbal correction, indicating that there will be no reward, and then escort them back to their bed. First, your dog can be made to “down-stay” while you are in the room. Next, they can be asked to stay when you are outside of the room, but nearby. The distance and time you are away from your dog can be increased progressively until your dog can remain in a down-stay for 20 to 30 minutes in your absence. Your dog should be warmly praised for compliance. Of course, they need to accept the praise without breaking the stay. Your dog should become accustomed to being separated from you when you are home for varying lengths of time and at different times of day. You can set up child gates to deny your dog access into the room you’re occupying (i.e. reading, watching television, or cooking). Instruct your dog to lie down and stay on a dog bed outside the room. As previously mentioned, you can provide an extended-release food treat or toy to keep your dog calm and distracted. Once they are able to tolerate being separated from you by a child gate, you can graduate to shutting the door to the room so your dog cannot see you. Allowing a dog to sleep in bed with the family can increase dependence. If you decide to prevent your dog from sleeping in your bed, there are some steps to take to establish this routine. First, you need to train your dog to sleep in their own bed on the floor in your bedroom. They may have to be taken to their bed several times before they get the message that you really want them to sleep in their own bed. Alternatively, you can train your dog to enjoy sleeping in a crate to prevent unwanted excursions. Do not use a crate if it causes more anxiety and distress for your dog. Once they tolerate sleeping in their own bed in your bedroom, you can move their bed outside of the bedroom and use a child gate or barrier to keep them out. Always remember to reward your dog with praise or a food treat for remaining in their bed. Develop Departure Techniques Many owners erroneously feel that if separation is so stressful, then they should spend more time with their dog before leaving. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the condition. Everyone in the family should ignore your dog for 15 to 20 minutes before leaving the house and for at least 10 to 20 minutes after returning home. Alternatively, your leaving can be made a highlight of your dog’s day by making it a “happy time” and the time at which they are fed. Departures should be quick and quiet. When departures (and returns) generate less anxiety (and excitement), your dog will begin to feel less tension in your absence. Remember to reward calm behavior. Teach your dog that your departure and return are just normal parts of the day and are not times to be stressed. You should attempt to randomize the cues indicating that you are preparing to leave. Changing the cues may take some trial and error. Some cues mean nothing to a dog, while others trigger anxiety. Make a list of the things you normally do before leaving for the day (and anxiety occurs) and the things done before a short time out (and no anxiety occurs).Then mix up the cues. For example, if your dog is fine when you go downstairs to do the laundry, you can try taking the laundry basket with you when you leave for work. If your dog becomes anxious when you pick up your keys or put on a coat, you should practice these things when you are not really leaving. You can, for example, stand up, put on a coat or pick up your car keys during television commercials, and then sit down again. You can also open and shut doors while you are home when you do not intend to leave. Entering and exiting through various doors when leaving and returning can also mix up cues for your dog. When you are actually leaving, you should try not to give any cues to this effect. Leave your coat in the car and put your keys in the ignition well before leaving. It is important to randomize all the cues indicating departure (clothing, physical and vocal signals, interactions with family members, other pets, and so on). The planned departure technique can be very effective for some dogs. This program is recommended only under special circumstances because it requires that you never leave your dog alone during the entire retraining period, which can be weeks or months. Timing is everything when implementing this program. If your dog shows signs of anxiety (pacing, panting, barking excessively) the instant you walk out of the door, you should stand outside the door and wait until your dog is quiet for three seconds. Then go back inside quickly and reward your dog for being calm. If you return WHEN your dog is anxious, this reinforces your dog’s tendency to display the behavior, because it has the desired effect of reuniting the “pack” members. The goal is for your dog to connect being calm and relaxed with your return. Gradually work up to slightly longer departures 5 to 10 minutes as long as your dog remains quiet, and continue in this fashion. Eventually, you should be able to leave for the day without your dog becoming anxious when you depart. When performed correctly, this program can be very helpful in resolving separation anxiety. Other Treatment Options Obedience Training Obedience training helps to instill confidence and independence in your dog. You should spend 5 to 10 minutes daily training your dog to obey one-word commands. It may be helpful to have training sessions occur in the room where your dog will be left when you are gone. All positive experiences (food, toys, sleep, training, and attention) should be associated with this area of the home. Exercise Your dog should receive 15 to 20 minutes of sustained aerobic exercise once, preferably twice, per day. It is often helpful to exercise your dog before you leave for the day. Exercise helps to dissipate anxiety and provides constructive interaction between you and your dog. It is best to allow your dog 15 to 20 minutes to calm down before you depart. Fetching a ball is good exercise, as is going for a brisk walk or run with your dog on a leash. Even if your dog has a large yard to run in all day, the aerobic exercise will be beneficial since most dogs will not tire themselves if left to their own devices. This is incredibly helpful in dogs that are working breeds that need a job to expend energy and work their brains. Supplements Recently, supplements have been released to the public that can help dogs with anxiety. Purina created a probiotic that has been shown to reduce anxiety and provide a calming effect on some dogs. Your veterinarian may recommend this product for treating anxiety, or other products that contain L-Theanine or L-tryptophan.

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Bailey
Borador
10 Months
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Bailey
Borador
10 Months

He is a rescue. We had him for a few months and he would eat fine with the other dog in the hkouse. But now when it is meal time and I start preparing his food the other dog cannot be around or else he will lunge. They used to be able to eat together without problems but now he gets super excited and I guess it is stressing him out to the point of reacting. He already obeys at the wait command and eats on command. But I don't how to help him feel that he won't starve, that he will always be fed and that no one is taking his food away. He is fine with me touching him and bowl it doesn't effect him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Celine, I highly recommend teaching pup to go to their crate when they hear you fixing the food, and to wait there until you bring the food to him, then close the door to the crate while he eats inside so that the other dogs can hover around him. This can help manage his behavior to avoid fights, but it can also help him learn to self-regulate and decrease any stress he is feeling about others being able to steal his food. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Bobo
Chihuahua and Pomeranian
3 Months
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Bobo
Chihuahua and Pomeranian
3 Months

I have a feeding situation here. My dog wont eat his food unless I put the food on my hands or hand feed him. At first I was worry that he would get sick if he doesnt eat so i kept feeding him by hand. I tried to put him in an empty room with his food but it didnt seem to work. I rather sleep than eat. I gave him his food in a bowl and left it in front of his face, he just snipped and then leave. Also, i bought him 4 different kinds of food. Please give me some advice!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
831 Dog owners recommended

Hello Thy, First, some puppies are more interested in food it you feed it in hollow chew toys, things like kong wobbles, and as training treats they earn throughout the day - you can place pup's daily kibble in a baggie to grab from there to measure how much pup is eating. I would also speak with your vet and be sure there isn't something medical going on and pup is being fed the correct amount. Things like an infection or parasites or bacterial imbalance or allergy or tooth problem could all make pup not feel like eating. Most puppies also need several rounds of worming while young, so pup could need another one. Speak with your vet. I am not a vet. Finally, has he been doing this since he arrived? Puppies transition to normal food from milk by eating gruel, which is puppy milk replacer mixed with kibble. If pup was never given gruel between milk and kibble, pup could need that in between step to help them learn to self feed better. At this age, that's not very likely, but I would check with your vet, and their breeder about how they used to eat before coming to you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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